In the United States, motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for people ages one to 54. In 2020 alone, about 41,000 people were killed in crashes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Driving during the holidays or over a holiday weekend increases your odds of being in an accident because of the surge in cars on the road, impaired drivers, and erratic driving behavior.
Here are some tips to help you stay safe while traveling this holiday season.
Fatigue can affect any driver. Holiday driving generally involves long distances, and everyone is anxious to get to where they are going. Driving for extended periods can create the same responses as someone driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
When you feel fatigued, the best course of action is to stop and rest. Take a power nap or walk around for a few minutes to get the blood flowing. This is also a good opportunity to check your tire pressure and fluid levels.
If stopping isn’t an option, play music. Some people choose music they don’t like because it prevents them from being lulled into a road trance. Others choose music they do like so they can sing, dance, and engage their metabolism.
Another option is to lower the temperature. You don’t want to begin shivering, as that is the start of hypothermia, but remaining cooler than normal can discourage you from closing your eyes.
On long car rides, it’s easy to become distracted. You might be tempted to call or text a family member or do some online shopping. Other drivers, road construction, changes in scenery, and kids in the back seat can also be distracting.
To avoid becoming distracted, plan ahead. Pack games and snacks for the kids, and anything else you need for a comfortable trip. If a child needs your attention, pull over. Also, avoid eating while driving and keep your phone out of reach and out of sight.
Stay alert for impaired drivers
The longer the drive and the later in the day you are driving, the more likely it is that you will encounter an impaired driver.
If you notice another driver weaving or driving erratically, put as much distance between their car and yours as possible. If you have a passenger, have them write down the license plate number and vehicle information and call 911 to report the suspected drunk driver.
Plan for winter weather
Winter weather can bring snow, ice, and other dangerous driving conditions. Before you leave, check the weather forecast and prepare your vehicle. Check your windshield wiper blades, battery, tire pressure, and tire tread. It’s also a good idea to clean your external camera.
If you find yourself in icy conditions, the National Safety Council offers this advice:
- Avoid using cruise control.
- If you lose control, steer in the direction of the skid.
- Accelerate and decelerate slowly.
- Increase your following distance.
- Avoid stopping when going uphill.
The holiday season brings a lot of activity — and dangers. By preparing and practicing defensive driving, you can enjoy your trip and arrive at your destination safely.
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